Most atheists are not going to be judged by God at all.  No one is judged by God unless they knew and believed his law, and still broke it:  Romans 4:15; 5:13;7:7; 1 John 3:4.  However, no one goes to ‘hell’, as it is popularly thought of.  The usual idea of ‘hell’ does not exist in the Bible.  Words wrongly translated ‘hell’ are:

  • Hebrew ‘sheol’, which means ‘the grave’:  Genesis 15:15; Psalm 6:5; 31:17; 89:48; 115:17; Ecclesiastes 3:20; 6:6; Isaiah 38:18 (the word is also quoted in Matthew 11:23; Acts 2:27-31; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
  • Greek ‘gehenna’, which means the burning rubbish heap outside Jerusalem, a symbol of total destruction:  Matthew 5:22,29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5.

When used as a punishment, fire in the Bible is a symbol of destruction, not everlasting life in agony:  Job 20:26, Psalms 21:8-9; 68:2; 106:17-18, Isaiah 33:12; 34:8-10; 66:24.  Wicked dead people are not in hell, they are still waiting to be judged:  Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 10:14-15; 12:41-42; 25:31-41; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Jude 1:6.

When we die, we go to the grave.  People and animals both have a ‘breath of life’ which belongs to God, and returns to him at death, while the person or animal goes to the grave:  Genesis 2:7; 7:21-22; Job 34:14-15; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20.  No one went to heaven at death: John 3:13; Acts 2:29,34-35.

Death is the end of all life and thought: Psalm 6:5; 49:14-15; 104:29, 115:17; 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; 9:5-6, 10; 12:7; Isaiah 38:9-10,18-19.  For this reason, death is called a ‘sleep’, a lack of consciousness: Deuteronomy 31:16; Job 7:21; Psalm 13:3; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; John 11:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51.

Judgment is in the future, and takes place at the return of Christ, not before:  Ecclesiastes 12:14; Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 7:21-23; 10:14-15; 11:22-24; 12:36-37; 13:24-50; 16:27; 19:28-30; 24:37-51; 25:1-46, Acts 17:30-31; 24:24-25, Romans 2:5; 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 John 4:17; Revelation 11:18.

Rejection from the Kingdom of God, and death is the punishment for sin — not eternal torment in ‘hell’:  Genesis 6:5-7; Ezekiel 18:4,10-13; Matthew 5:20; 10:28; 21:43; 23:13,33; Luke 9:62; 13:28, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8;  Revelation 22:14-15.

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  • Grahame Grieve

    I thought atheists were people who refused to believe in God, not people who didn’t know the law.

    And given that Paul holds some laws self-evident, I’m not sure that it’s true that some people aren’t judged.